- George Plimpton, our founding editor, held the unofficial title of fireworks commissioner of New York City for some thirty years, but he hosted the hottest fireworks parties at his place in the Hamptons. When he died, in 2003, “his son, Taylor, following his father’s wishes, packed his ashes into a firework with the help of Phil Grucci and launched him into the sky.”
- What’s wrong with loving love songs? Nothing. Studying them for “subversive” moments may be disingenuous though, like “scanning a nursery for ugly babies. The interesting question about babies is what makes them so cute.” There’s nothing wrong with sentiment. Enjoy it.
- This week in stereotypes: in effort to attract a more divers readership, comic-book publishers are incorporating more gay characters and story lines—like Kevin, the gay character introduced into the Archie series in 2010. DC Comics, though, has a new gay superhero named Midnighter, who “likes to fight and is promiscuous.”
- Some things never change, which is to say art is still irrelevant. Looking at the fiscal health of the fine arts can buoy your spirits, but challenge anyone on the street to “identify the architect of the Freedom Tower or name a single winner of the Tate Prize,” and you may be disappointed. Even your last trip to the museum was probably “for the sake of sensation and spectacle.”
- Dune looks good at fifty, maybe better than it ever has: the science fiction’s concerns—human potential, environmental anxiety, revolution, and altered states of consciousness—have more geopolitical echoes than they did in 1965. “If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war,” then, “Dune is the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius.”
Not long ago I had the honor of officiating at the wedding of a Swede and a Russian Jew. It was not a religious ceremony (unless you count the Universal Life Church), but when the three of us sat down to discuss vows, the bride and groom agreed that the Book of Common Prayer couldn’t be beat; we just had to kill the “obey” clause and the stuff about God. It felt funny, crossing out words in my great-grandfather’s prayer book, but according to a new monograph by Daniel Swift, Shakespeare did pretty much the same thing, repeatedly. Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age makes a case for the Anglican liturgy as a work of politics and art and as a crucial influence on English literature. It made for perfect candelight reading after lower Manhattan lost power. —Lorin Stein